20 Days Remaining

Wednesday 22nd
posted by Steve Sweeney in Britain

PROTESTERS gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday for the first day of a hearing challenging the government’s “sinister” policy of detaining and deporting homeless EU citizens.

The demonstration in London was organised and supported by migrant and housing groups, including North East London Migrants Association (NELMA) and SOAS Detainee Support.

It took place prior to a judicial review that will rule on the legality of a policy brought in last year by then home secretary Theresa May making it illegal for EU citizens to sleep rough in Britain.

Ms May claimed that rough sleeping was an abuse of EU citizens’ freedom of movement rights and those caught on the streets could be “administratively removed.”

But Mr Justice Ouseley, who granted permission for the judicial review, said that rough sleeping could not be equated with “abuse” or “misuse” of free movement rights and that deporting EU nationals who are homeless may be unlawful and discriminatory.

The protesters were joined by Unite housing workers branch.

Unite homelessness worker Jack Jeffrey said: “The number of EU citizens being removed from the UK has now increased fivefold since 2010 and new regulations have stepped up the pressure still further.”

He said that the problem is not restricted to London, highlighting a £150,000 partnership agreement between Bristol Council and the government Controlling Migration Fund “to build a stronger intelligence picture of migrant rough sleeping.”

A two-month trial period in Westminster in 2015 saw 127 people deported. However despite Freedom of Information requests from campaign groups, details of the numbers of homeless people detained without charge and deported have not been released.

Those who have been detained complain of a lack of legal representation or information and accuse the government of withholding important documents.

Romanian couple Marineta and Teofil, who were held for nearly a month at the notorious Yarl's Wood detention centre, said it took five months to get their ID and other documents back.

"We are Europeans. We have the same rights as anyone else and deserve to be treated like any English person in the same situation," Teofil said.

NELMA claims that the policy is discriminatory, with the Home Office detaining and deporting many working people.

Disturbingly, homeless charities including St Mungo’s are known to be helping the Home Office remove EU nationals by handing over information about rough sleepers.  

The three-day hearing continues today and is expected to conclude tomorrow.